The beauty of baseball is that redemption is never out of reach. Tyler Guilfoil was reminded of that on Thursday night when Lafayette faced off against Lexington Catholic in the second game of a back-to-back series with the Knights.
Lafayette’s second baseman relieved starting pitcher Brady Bowling once Bowling issued consecutive two-out walks in the top of the seventh inning. Guilfoil gave up a single that traveled into far right field and put Lexington Catholic in front 3-1. He walked the next batter before Blake Pulliam took over on the mound and got Lafayette out of the frame with a strikeout.
A Luke Taylor single helped pull the Generals within a run in the bottom of the inning. Then Guilfoil went from goat to GOAT; he stepped to the plate and sent a two-run chopper past LexCath’s shortstop for a walk-off win over the Knights, who’d taken the first 43rd District meeting 3-2 at their place the night before. Quick redemption for all.
“I came in to pitch and kind of let down my team,” Guilfoil said. “It finally came around back to me and I knew I had to step up.”
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Figuring things out
Guilfoil’s turn in Hollywood might turn out to be a defining moment for the Generals, who were the highest-ranked team in the city at No. 6 in Prep Baseball Report’s most recent list. As the midway point of the season nears, they’re still figuring out their pitching rotation and getting a sense of where their pieces fit. Everybody’s got to be ready when their number’s called, wherever that might be on the field.
“When I’m there at second base, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I got this, I got this,” Guilfoil said of his mentality moving from the infield late in the game. “Then you get on the mound and throw two balls and get a little tighter, a little tighter.”
Guilfoul, a junior, is primarily a pitcher but had never taken the mound after starting in the infield until Thursday. Several underclassmen are playing unfamiliar roles for the Generals, who will graduate just five seniors — Bowling, Nathan Henry, Jake Morgan, Matthew Pellegrino and Eddie Satisky —following this campaign.
Thankfully for Coach Chris Langston, he’s got five seniors with whom everybody gets along well. That could go a long way as Lafayette looks to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2004.
“That’s a plus,” Langston said. “You can have 12 seniors and only like three or four of them, and you’re not gonna get that chemistry. But we’re lucky. We have five good ones.”
Morgan is another pitcher who’s getting a wealth of time in the infield as younger guys grow more comfortable with the intensity of district baseball. Ahead of Lafayette’s 43rd District opener versus LexCath on Wednesday, only three Generals had ever played in a district game, Langston said.
“We’re gonna have to grow every week in these doubleheaders to really figure out what kind of team we can be,” Langston said.
“That next chance”
Those doubleheaders are a new thing in the 43rd District. The 42nd District tried it last season and continued the practice this year. While there are some drawbacks — like possibly dropping two games in a row to a team you might have a better chance against three weeks later — Langston believes this method of scheduling offers a lot of positives: teams learn more about their depth at every position, crowds get a quicker payoff from their investment in the series, and the rivalries get a brighter spotlight.
“For this age group, millennials and the young kids, everybody says, ‘Ah, they don’t care about anything,’ but you could see tonight that it meant something, and that’s big,” Langton said. “And that’s why I’m glad that we’re doing this back-to-back, ’cause it really showed that they do care about the little things.”
Another positive? The chance to immediately make up for a tough loss. Or, in Guilfoil’s case, a bad pitch.
“That’s baseball, and that’s what we talk about: You’re always gonna get that next chance,” Langston said. “Usually it would’ve been the next day, but he actually got it the next inning and got a chance to redeem himself for his teammates.”
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all year. You’ve just gotta stay with it. You’re gonna get your chance to help the team out, and Tyler saw what that meant and so did the whole team.”